After fraud search, Illinois House challenger concedes defeat

May 1, 2012

Six weeks since the Illinois primary, a Democratic challenger who tried to unseat a clout-heavy state House member on Chicago’s Northwest Side is finally conceding defeat.

Political newcomer Will Guzzardi came within 125 votes of Rep. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios, who has held the 39th District seat for five terms. He alleged irregularities with the March 20 balloting and mounted an extraordinary search for fraud.

But Guzzardi did not file a complaint with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners or contest the results in Cook County Circuit Court. The deadline for the court challenge was Monday afternoon.

“Our attorney has indicated that [our evidence] is probably not enough to sustain a formal legal complaint,” Guzzardi wrote in a Tuesday message to his supporters. “I am formally conceding the election. I’d like to congratulate Representative Berrios.”

Guzzardi told WBEZ his showing in the race means something: “The machine isn’t invincible. Right up to Election Day, people thought we were foolish for even trying to take it on. The close result proves that organized people and organized communities can stand up to entrenched power.”

The Berrios campaign has bristled at suggestions that she depended on help she received from Democratic leaders such as her father, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who chairs the party’s county organization. “If [Guzzardi] wanted to run against the machine, he should have run against Joe,” Berrios spokesman Manuel Galvan said on Election Night.

Guzzardi, 25, said he would consider running for office again. After campaigning full-time for seven months, however, the Brown University graduate said his immediate task was lining up a job.

“All the issues we raised in the campaign — schools, the economy, foreclosures, government reform — are still pressing,” Guzzardi said. “I want to keep working on them.”